Obama as a Rawlsian?

From Obama’s nomination acceptance speech on Thursday night:

“We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America’s promise – the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.”

This comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following Obama’s rise since the ’04 acceptance speech: it is the core of his political message, a theme if you will.

And this got me thinking, is Obama a closet Rawlsian? In Political Liberalism, John Rawls has this idea of “overlapping consensus:”

“In an overlapping consensus, citizens support the same basic laws for different reasons. In Rawlsian terms, each citizen supports a political conception of justice for reasons internal to her own comprehensive doctrine. A political conception is freestanding: it is a “module” that can fit into any number of worldviews that citizens might have. In an overlapping consensus each reasonable citizen affirms this common “module” from within her own perspective.”

Ironically, Rawls himself thought that an overlapping consensus is almost impossible to achieve, and he was deeply pessimistic that in a value-pluralistic society like America, with deeply conflicting value systems among citizens, political stability as a result of overlapping consensus is likely to be impossible.

We’ll see if such a consensus can develop under a potential Obama administration.

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One Response to “Obama as a Rawlsian?”

  1. Lois Says:

    Oh! I forgot. I agree with KAT. Mix it up. Those tutorials must take forever so give us creations and a weekly tutorial. I ca;218&#7nt keep up with them all when you do one everyday. LOL Take pity on us and give us time to work it out before the next one. I hate not doing every single one of them.


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